HowTo: take a restorative study break

Dave Munger at Cognitive Daily:

When you’re studying during nearly every free moment, what’s the best way to clear up your mind and refocus yourself for the next round of studying?

One old idea that has re-emerged recently is called “attention restoration theory”, or ART. William James actually discussed a similar concept in his 1892 psychology textbook. The idea that taking a walk in the woods can help you refocus your thoughts is at least as old as Immanuel Kant, and probably older. But how exactly does interacting with nature help focus attention? ART says that the natural world engages your attention in a bottom-up fashion, by features of the environment (e.g. a sunset, a beautiful tree). The artificial world demands active attention, to avoid getting hit by cars or to follow street signs. Since intellectual activities like studying or writing also demand the same kind of attention, taking a break in the artificial world doesn’t really function like a rest.

A must-read post!


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